Ascent of Mount Powell on 2015-07-19

Climber: Eric Higginbotham

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Sunday, July 19, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Mount Powell
    Elevation:10168 ft / 3099 m

Ascent Trip Report

I wanted to attempt a route I hadn't seen used before for Mount Powell in any of the summit post, county highpointer or peakbagger write ups. I reached the 2WD trailhead by using the following driving directions from the Mount Powell Summit Post page. These directions come from XX who got them from YY and I will reproduce them here with in bold italics. Take Exit 195 off of I-90 between the towns of Deer Lodge and Anaconda. Drive west one mile to a T intersection. Take a right (north) and drive 0.7 miles and take a left (west) onto gravel Quinlan Road. The road will travel west for 3.5 miles (with a dogleg south then west again in the middle of this stretch). At the end of the 3.5 miles, watch for a sharp right turn down a smaller road; it can be hard to see coming from the east. Take this hard right turn uphill and travel northeast for a mile to a Y intersection. Branch left and after 100 yards branch right up a hill. You are now on FS 8507. Stay on this road, traversing by the Montana State Prison, as it rounds out the foothills and travels 7.5 miles into the mountains to the 2WD trailhead. The distance travelled on Quinlan road was 3.3 miles on my odometer. The turn to the right off Quinlan Road is not narrow anymore and doesn't turn uphill. This is now an intersection of two equally sized gravel roads. The rest of the directions worked great. I camped for the night at the 2WD trailhead. This is a very active trailhead for 4 wheelers and side by sides, expect people to be around. At daylight I starting hiking up the 4 wheeler road, plenty of dead beetle killed lodgepole pine in this area. After following the road for .67 mile I spotted an open grassy hillside to right (northwest) of the trail. I veered off the trail heading to the base of the grassy incline. I climbed up this steep open hillside route finding through patches of thistle. The open area ended at the top of the ridge and I turned left (west) following a maintained cow trail along the top of the ridge just inside the trees. If you like the smell of fresh cow trail in the morning, this is the trail for you. The trail leads to a giant alpine meadow and continues up through this meadow. Here the dog and I stopped to take in the views of Table Mountain by Butte and the smokestack by Anaconda. We cut across the meadow leaving the meadow at the top of the ridge that cradles Dempsey drainage. Just inside the trees we picked up a very old foot trail and followed it for a ways, mostly by the overgrown blazes on the tree. We soon realized it wasn't heading in the direction we wanted to go and turned back (northwest) along the ridge. At this point we picked our way through minimal brush along the ridge past scrub white pine and a few downfall. After cresting a slight rise in the ridge, Mount Powell was visible and we crossed the south plateau and stopped for a rest at the base of Mount Powell. We then climbed the last half mile to the summit. This route was 4.6 miles to the summit and took us 3.5 hours including rest stops. After pictures and glassing for goats (didn't see any) the plan was to descend down the southwest ridge and come out by Lower Elliot Lake to fish. When we started across a large boulder scree field along the ridge the dog started having problems jumping from rock to rock. New plan, we descended down the valley? just to the south of us. This was rocky and steep. The route was adjusted to avoid cliffy sections and we still ran into some large boulder fields the dog disapproved of. We did come across a USGS brass cap set in 1926. There was no sign of a trail the survey party made when setting it. Once down at the creek we scratched our way through the spruce trees and copious brush in the bottom sinking in the boggy grass past our ankles on occasion. When we finally reached the trail, we stopped and ate our lunch of sardines and crackers. I'll admit the dog got most of the sardines even with her whining about the boulders. From there we followed the 4 wheeler trail out, passing 2 side by sides, three 4 wheelers and one old school motorcycle. The gentlemen on the wheelers were all armed and said they had seen a bear cross the trail a mile back. They were drinking beer and I stopped to chat with them awhile. They didn't offer me a beer and that kind of rudeness indicates a major lack of character so I left. I didn't see any animals on the hike except some mule deer at the trailhead and a squirrel on the summit. I did see some bear sign along the ridge and goat sign near the plateau. We stopped and fished at Bohn Lake until I realized the lake didn't have any fish in it or I would have caught one. More wheelers were preparing to head up the trail when we reached the trailhead. Having climbed to the summit using the route along the ridge and then returned taking the more traditional route I can say the route along the top of the ridge is much nicer. Less brush, less boulders, less cliffyness, less 4 wheelers. I wish I had taken the same route out as I took in. I recommend the route along the top of the ridge especially if you want to double bag Deer Lodge Mountain. The route along the ridge spreads the elevation gain out over the entire hike and was shorter by a 1.5 miles than my return route if you account for my wandering around Bohn Lake. I have attached the GPS track of my route to the summit but will not post my return trip route for fear someone might follow it. If you want more info about the ridge trail contact me through my peakbagger page.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Mount Powell center from edge of Montana State Prison (2015-07-19). Photo by Eric Higginbotham.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4270 ft / 1301 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4270 ft / 1300 m
    Round-Trip Distance:10.9 mi / 17.5 km
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Stream Ford, Scramble
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Nice, couldn't be better.
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4270 ft / 1301 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3903 ft / 1190 m; Extra: 367 ft / 111m
    Loss on way in:367 ft / 111 m
    Distance:4.6 mi / 7.4 km
    Route:Ridge to North East of 4wd road
    Start Trailhead:6265 ft / 1909 m
    Time:3 Hours 23 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3903 ft / 1189 m
    Distance:6.3 mi / 10.1 km
    Route:Southwest Rdige/Valley
    End Trailhead:2WD Trailhead Dempsey Lakes  6265 ft / 1909 m
    Time:4 Hours 14 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Eric Higginbotham
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

Other Photos

Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Deer Lodge Mountain from Summit of Mount Powell (2015-07-19). Photo by Eric Higginbotham.
Click here for larger-size photo.

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